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Impact Of Redlining Outweighs JPMorgan's $3 Million Grant, Advocates Say

Erica Peterson

JPMorgan Chase has announced it will grant $3 million for Metro United Way of Louisville to administer programs to expand financial literacy coaching and high tech job training aimed at residents of six of the city's low-income neighborhoods.

The grant-funded programs will target residents of Portland, Phoenix Hill, Smoketown, Shelby Park, South-Central Louisville and Russell.

"What we want to do is make sure that it's not just the built environment that is getting invested in, but that the individuals and the people are also getting invested in," Metro United Way President Theresa Reno-Weber said.

Reno-Weber said the grant targets individuals in neighborhoods "who had been left behind by investment by community or city, or had been affected by redlining."

She said the communities were chosen based on data collected for the Greater Louisville Project that revealed disparities in educational, health and job outcomes among various populations in Louisville.

Metro United Way spokesman John Blair said the grant is not designed to address redlining, but that it is part of the historical context surrounding these neighborhoods.

"The announcement is not intended to reverse history and the challenges our community has faced, but rather designed to positively affect and co-create solutions for the future," Blair said.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon announced Louisville as a winner of the AdvancingCities Grant at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, located in the Russell neighborhood.

JPMorgan Chase selected five cities this year, including Louisville, to receive $3 million grants that will be distributed over three years. Grants will also go to Miami, San Diego, Syracuse, New York, and the West Side of Chicago. JPMorgan Chase says on its AdvancingCities webpage that the purpose of the grant is to "bolster the long-term vitality of the world’s cities and the communities within them that have not benefited from economic growth."

Speakers at a press conference publicizing the announcement, from Mayor Greg Fischer to Dimon, celebrated the grant as an investment in individuals seeking to lift themselves up after experiencing economic hardships.

"With this grant we have the opportunity to take families from poverty to middle class," said Dave Christopher Sr. of AMPED Louisville, one of the partner organizations that will receive a portion of the grant funds.

Christopher noted that African Americans are under-represented in the technology workforce, in an industry where entry-level jobs come with a living wage.

With Redlining In Mind

Not everyone in Louisville sees the grant in the same light.

“It’s cute,” said Black Lives Matter Louisville organizer Chanelle Helm of the grant announcement. "My first thought was this is not even nearly enough.”

Helm said she views the grant as JPMorgan Chase making an attempt at reparations for black communities harmed by banks' lending policies going back generations, including  redlining, the practice of banks refusing loans based on a person's race or neighborhood because the lender views them as a financial risk.

Josh Poe is a Louisville city planner and community organizer who has researched the history of redlining in Louisville. Poe said JPMorgan Chase "owes a real debt" to black communities.

“Redlining didn’t steal jobs from black people. It didn’t steal income from black people, and it didn’t steal skills from black people. It stole wealth from black people,” Poe said, adding that an appropriate response from banks that committed redlining would include a redistribution of wealth.

As recently as 2017, JPMorgan Chase agreed to a $55 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department for complaints of discriminatory mortgage practices committed from 2006 to 2009. Reporting from Reveal and the Center for Investigative Reporting found modern-day redlining persists in many U.S. cities, but the report could not conclude whether banks had recently engaged in discriminatory lending practices in the Louisville Metro area.

JPMorgan Chase did not respond to a request for comment on statements made by Helm and Poe.

Where Grant Funds Will Go

A major portion of Louisville's AdvancingCities grant will go directly toward these programs:

Kentuckiana Works will develop a new Tech Louisville job training camp for about 100 adults to learn skills to help them get jobs in the IT support industry. The training camp will be modeled off of the existing Code Louisville program, which blends online courses with in-person meetings for students to participate in project-based learning led by local volunteers with industry experience. Kentuckiana Works plans to launch the program in July, with one meet-up site located in west Louisville. The program will be open to anyone, but Kentuckiana Works will do targeted recruiting in the neighborhoods the grant identified.

Goodwill Industries of Kentucky and Catholic Charities of Louisville plan to use their portions of the funding to expand their existing career and financial literacy coaching programs. Goodwill Industries will hire two additional career coaches to help individuals with resume writing, interview preparation and other job readiness training.

Metro United Way of Louisville submitted the grant application and is working with a number of other local partner organizations to fulfill the proposal and get the word out to residents who may benefit from these programs.

Here is a breakdown of how the grant will be distributed among organizations:

  • Kentuckiana Works $855,000
  • Metro United Way $480,000
  • Evolve502 $360,000
  • Goodwill Industries of Kentucky $330,000
  • AMPED -- The Academy of Music Production Education and Development $225,000
  • Russell: A Place of Promise $358,000
  • The Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky at the University of Louisville $225,000
  • Catholic Charities $150,000
  • OneWest $17,000


Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.

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